Factors That Determine A Personal Injury Claim’s Worth
How much is my personal injury case worth? This is one of the most frequently asked questions that my clients have. There is almost never a clear-cut answer to this question because there is not a magic formula or calculator that can be used to determine a case’s value.
Every case is different, and the value of a case depends on a variety of factors. Some of those factors include whether the other driver was clearly at fault or whether liability is in question, whether you share any blame for causing the accident, the amount of property damage to the cars, the amount of your medical expenses and lost wages, the nature and severity of your injuries, the extent of your pain and suffering, the amount of available insurance coverage, whether there are any aggravating factors in the accident, and the credibility or likability of the parties involved.
Based on all of these factors, as well as any others that may be unique to your case, an experienced personal injury attorney can generally come up with a range for the settlement value of your case and determine how to approach settlement discussions with that range in mind. To evaluate a case’s value, it is important to understand the types of damages you are entitled to claim. Broadly speaking, damages fall into three categories: economic, non-economic, and punitive.
Economic damages, also known as special damages, are the economic losses you sustained because of the accident. The most common types of economic damages are medical expenses and lost wages. Under the collateral source rule, you are entitled to claim the full amount that your medical provider bills, regardless of whether they have been paid by health insurance or some other source. This is important to remember because many people believe they can only claim the bills they actually pay out of their own pocket, such as their portion of the co-pay and deductible.
Likewise, you still get to claim lost wages if you miss time from work but still receive payment for your missed time. For example, you may receive payment from using accrued leave time, a disability policy, or workers’ compensation coverage if the accident occurred while you were working. In this scenario, the collateral source rule allows you to claim the missed time from work as lost wages.
You may have additional out-of-pocket expenses you are entitled to claim. For example, you may have to make frequent trips for medical treatments. Or you may have to pay someone to perform tasks you normally performed, such as household chores, going to the grocery store, or doing yard work. It is important to keep an accurate record of any out-of-pocket expenses, including any documentation, such as receipts, that show what you paid.
Non-economic damages are also referred to as general damages. This category of damages includes things like pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, diminished capacity to labor, and bodily disfigurement. These damages are the most frequent source of disagreement in settlement discussions because there is no clear mathematical formula for determining them. Under Georgia law, the standard is the “enlightened conscience of a fair and impartial jury.”
Because nobody knows for a sure what a jury will do in a given case, the amount of non-economic damages an injured person is entitled to receive can be a hotly contested issue. A common myth is that insurance companies offer injured people three times their economic damages as compensation for their pain and suffering. This is simply not the case as there are many factors that go into determining a case’s value. Although no two cases are the same, insurance companies and personal injury attorneys will frequently use their experience handling injury cases, as well as past verdicts and settlements that are similar to your own, to help determine the value of these damages.
Punitive damages are awarded where there are aggravating circumstances that justify an award of damages to punish, penalize, or deter a defendant. They are only appropriate when there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care that would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to the consequences. In car accident cases, punitive damages are most common when the driver was drunk, under the influence of drugs, or texting at the time of the accident. Some insurance policies will exclude punitive damages.
Personal Injury Case Value Formulas
Some insurance companies use formulas to determine the value of a case. Two popular examples that are often discussed are the multiplier formula and a per diem formula.
A multiplier formula (in theory) uses all of your economic damages and multiplies them to value non-economic damages.
For example, if you have $100,000 in medical bills, lost wages, and other economic damages, the insurance company may multiply that by two-and-a-half to value your economic damages for $250,000. The insurance company may then offer you $350,000 total as a settlement.
In our experience, multiplier formulas are not common and give many clients a false impression of what damages are attainable.
However, if an insurance company uses a per diem formula, they may apply a value to each day that the accident has impacted you and make you an offer for the total time they feel your life was affected by your injuries.
For example, if the insurance company allows for $100 per day and your injuries persist for 100 days, they may offer you $100,000 as a settlement.
Considering Your Degree of Fault
Georgia is a modified comparative negligence state. That means if you were partially at fault for an accident, you might still be able to recover compensation. As long as you were less than 50% at fault, you can collect compensation from the other party.
For example, if you were 49% at fault for the accident and had $100,000 in damages, your recovery would be reduced by $49,000. You could still recover $51,000 from the other party.
Severity of Injuries
A major factor in determining how much your case is worth is the severity and longevity of your injuries. In general, the worse you are hurt, the more money you will recover. That is because you will have higher medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages due to more severe injuries that last longer.
Personal Injury Damages
In a personal injury case, you can recover compensation for two types of damages: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are easily valued monetary amounts that you have paid out of pocket or are billed for. They include:
- Past and future medical costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Property damage
Non-economic damages are not as easily valued. They include things like:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium (spousal relationship)
- Loss of enjoyment of life
An expert may be required to establish future medical costs or non-economic damages in some cases.
Commonly Overlooked Damages
While most people are familiar with medical costs and lost wages, there are some other, lesser-known damages to think about. Without legal help, you could be leaving compensation on the table.
For example, in addition to lost wages, you may no longer be able to complete your previous job function. For instance, if you can’t move like you used to, you may have what’s called “a loss of earning capacity,” which means you can no longer earn as much as you once could. This loss will be ongoing throughout the rest of your career. It can add up to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
If your loved one died in an accident, you might not realize that you can get compensation to pay for all your past and future losses as well. You can get money to cover funeral and burial costs. You can even get compensation for the expected inheritance that you will no longer get because of the death of your family member.
How a Lawyer Helps Maximize Value
According to a study, working with a personal injury attorney can improve your chances of getting compensation and help you get more than you would without a lawyer on your side.
When personal injury victims work with an attorney, they get a payout approximately 91% of the time. Without a lawyer, victims only get money 51% of the time. Insurance companies know that they can take advantage of people who do not have lawyers. They will do everything possible to delay and deny your claim.
When victims failed to use a lawyer, they received an average compensation of $17,600. However, people who had a personal injury attorney on their side got an average compensation payout of $77,600. Thus, even with legal fees typically paid out of your compensation, you will receive more when you work with an attorney.
Some Common Complications
Insurance companies will do everything to cause problems with a personal injury claim. They are in business to make money. They don’t want to pay out to victims, no matter how strong your case is.
Insurance companies will often dispute liability and claim that their insured is not at fault. Or, in Georgia, they may try to place more of the blame on you.
Everything you say to an insurance company will be used against you. You should never talk to an insurance company, not even your own until you speak to an attorney first.
Your attorney can help you think clearly and develop safe answers to the questions the insurance company will ask. Your attorney can also handle all communication, so you don’t have to stress over it.
Insurance companies will also deny and dispute claims whenever possible. They may refuse to pay your medical bills, fail to cover all your property damage, and cut corners wherever possible. Insurance companies may even require you to be evaluated by their own doctors to determine if you actually need continued medical treatment.
It’s important that you work with a personal injury attorney who will fight back when the insurance company tries to dispute your economic and non-economic damages.
What Our Clients Have to Say
Dajaneshia | Car Accident
Michael | Car Accident
Natalia | Premises Liability
Robyn | Slip and Fall
Jake | Car Accident
Sue | Slip and Fall
Judith | Medical Malpractice
Champion Firm Client | Motor Vehicle Accidents
Wanda | Wrongful Death
Champion Firm Client | Motor Vehicle Accident
Walter | Motor Vehicle Accident
Michael | Slip & Fall
Brent | Motorcycle Accident
Sandra | Car Accident
Julie | Wrongful Death
Cynthia | Car Accident
Christy | Car Accident
Andy | Wrongful Death
Justin | Truck Accident
Personal Injury Compensation FAQ
What Is the Average Personal Injury Settlement?
On average, if you accept the first offer from an insurance company, you will only get approximately $11,800. However, if you allow a personal injury attorney to negotiate an appropriate settlement, you can get an average of $42,500.
Is My Claim Worth Three Times my Medical Bills?
A common belief amongst individuals filing personal injury claims is that their claim is worth three times the cost of their medical bills. Our Atlanta personal injury attorney, Darl Champion, explains why that’s not always true and discusses the variables that go into determining the value of your personal injury claim.
Will I Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
In cases where a personal injury lawsuit is filed or threatened, the settlement tends to be higher. An average settlement when no steps are taken towards a lawsuit is $23,000. However, if you work with a personal injury attorney and file a lawsuit, the average settlement is $45,500.
How Long Will It Take to Get Compensation?
The average time to resolve a personal injury claim is 11.4 months. In cases where a payout was received, it took an average of 10 months. Approximately 30% of the people who responded to this survey indicated that it took more than a year to resolve their injury claims.
It’s understandable to want a quick payout, but in cases that took six months or less, people typically got nothing at all.
Get Help & Recover More
If you or a loved one suffered severe injuries because someone was negligent, The Champion Firm will fight for your right to receive all the compensation you deserve. Our lawyers will listen to your story and help you understand your options.